I openly laughed the other day when I saw a tweet coming across my timeline that said, “The Steelers were founded in 1933, not 1972.” The tweet was in response to large numbers of fans who often forget the history of this organization. Between 1933 and 1972 (when the Immaculate Reception happened) the Steelers had been a model of futility.
The man who engineered the wake-up call was Chuck Noll who went on to lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl Titles in six years. Noll passed away last night at the age of 82 years old. His passing will be tough take for Steelers’ fans and many inside the organization.
Tying to sum up what Noll’s impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers was is really impossible when you think about it. This was a franchise that had never won a playoff game and had a string of losing seasons prior to his arrival in 1969.
Often known more as a CEO than a coach, Noll had a very business-like approach to coaching and it worked for some and left others scratching their heads. Many former players used to comment quite humorously about Noll’s pregame speeches which were often long, drawn-out stories that seemingly went nowhere.
But that was Noll. He doesn’t have a bunch of great one-liners that will grace the walls of high school football locker rooms like Vince Lombardi or Knute Rockne might have, because that wasn’t him. He was a teacher who stressed technique and preparation and he allowed his players to take care of and police themselves.
He recognized what an NFL locker room was becoming in terms of black and white players sharing the same space and ultimately sharing the same goal. He brought together future greats like Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw and Jack Lambert and molded them into the greatest collection of players to ever play on the same team.
While Lombardi will be credited with the Green Bay Packers’ dynasty of the 1960’s, Noll will be remembered for guiding the Steelers through the first true dynasty of the Super Bowl era. Noll retired in 1991 but his impact is difficult to calculate because it really does continue today.
While it will be a sad few days for Steelers’ fans, we should also take time to rejoice and be grateful for Noll who is incredibly responsible for what we have to cheer for today.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard weekly on Trib-Live Radio talking Steelers and is a blogger for ESPN 970 in Pittsburgh.